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Communicating to Politicians and the Voters

Prior to a month ago, it is highly unlikely that most Ontario voters knew much about AMO. The term is an acronym for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, which is an advocacy organization for the collective interests of the province’s municipalities.

Most voters know their local mayor and council members and their responsibilities in the daily administration of the city, town or township. The Association deals primarily with Queen’s Park, addressing legislative and regulatory matters which their members – the municipalities – consider priorities.

Every year in mid to late-August, AMO conducts their annual meeting. This year the event occurred in Ottawa from the 18 to 21, and truly remarkable was the presence of the entire Ontario Cabinet.  This year all ministers were directed to show up on account of the Premier’s assessment they were doing a bad job of communicating to everyone in the province.

Many years ago when I was political staff to an Ontario cabinet minister, we attended the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, or ROMA, Annual Meeting at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. This organization calls itself the “rural arm” of AMO with their own board of directors.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs was speaking on Monday morning. There was a question and answer session after his prepared remarks. The minister I was working for at the time represented a rural riding but he was not responsible for municipal affairs.

There were 6 questions asked from the floor by delegates across Ontario. Five originated from mayors, reeves and councilors from the riding of the minister for whom I was working.

On the way back to Queen’s Park the minister remarked that obviously he, and I as his staff person, had done a fine job of explaining recent changes to the people and municipal politicians of his riding. What was more alarming was that all the answers the minister provided from the podium were the opposite of what we had previously told these same local officials.

Two years later during the general election my boss had one of the highest percentages of the vote in Ontario and the party retained their majority status. Fortunately in politics people can easily forget.

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